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Clara Foods, the San Francisco food tech developing animal-free proteins and chickenless eggs, has announced the launch of the world’s first 100% pig-free pepsin, an enzyme ingredient widely used in food and pharmaceutical products. It marks the startup’s first commercialised product, which will be distributed exclusively with global ingredient giant Ingredion.
Clara Foods is rolling out its animal-free pepsin for commercial use, the first of its kind developed using precision fermentation technology, displacing the need to slaughter animals for the enzyme, the company revealed on Thursday (March 4). Whilst completely animal-free, Clara Foods’ version still bears the unique functionality of its porcine-based counterparts, with the added benefits of ethical and sustainability advantages.
The novel product, which is antibiotic-free, vegan, Kosher and Halal, will be rolled out by global ingredients provider Ingredion, who will be the sole go-to-market and distributor across North America. It will be available to businesses around the world who “source protein at a mass scale” at a price “competitive with current industry offerings”.
Traditionally produced pepsin, which is used in everything from chewing gum to stomach medications, is almost exclusively manufactured from pig stomachs, with each kilogram of the enzyme requiring around 100 pigs.
By eliminating animals from production using precision fermentation – isolating the DNA sequence that encodes for the exact same protein and fermenting it – Clara Foods’ animal-free bio-identical pepsin also comes with the additional advantages of food safety, provenance, supply chain resilience and price stability. The last point is especially relevant in recent years, given the pepsin industry’s battles with periodic outbreaks of livestock disease, such as African swine fever, which wiped out 100 million pigs in 2019.
Pepsin represents the first of several products coming online, and I could not be more excited. We are creating Food 2.0 and using it to upgrade the food industry, and we’re thrilled to share our breakthrough technology.Arturo Elizondo, CEO & Co-Founder, Clara Foods
The technology that Clara Foods has leveraged to develop its animal-free pepsin is similar to the process used to make insulin for diabetics, rennet for cheese-making, and heme, the ingredient made famous by food tech giant Impossible Foods to make its iron-rich plant-based beef burgers. A number of other food techs are also using fermentation to develop animal-free analogues, such as Perfect Day, who is recreating dairy proteins, and Geltor’s collagen.
Commenting on the breakthrough, Arturo Elizondo, CEO and co-founder of Clara Foods, said: “Pepsin was the first enzyme to be discovered, and it’s an honour that after 200 years, we can now introduce the world’s first pepsin – made completely animal-free.”
“We’ve been knee-deep in R&D for the last six years building out our technology platform, scaling up, and expanding our product portfolio. Pepsin represents the first of several products coming online, and I could not be more excited. We are creating Food 2.0 and using it to upgrade the food industry, and we’re thrilled to share our breakthrough technology with companies large and small on a global scale,” Elizondo continued.
We recognise that animal-free protein is emerging as a consumer value.Michael Natale, Global Leader of Plant Based Proteins, Ingredion
Ingredion says that amid the growing awareness of the dangers and vulnerabilities in the meat supply chain, it has become imperative to offer more animal-free alternatives and solutions like the pepsin developed by Clara Foods to its clients.
“We recognise that animal-free protein is emerging as a consumer value,” said Michael Natale, Ingredion’s global platform leader of plant-based proteins. “Our go-to-market teams are excited to partner with Clara Foods to launch this innovative, breakthrough porcine pepsin replacement to our customers.”
The news comes shortly after Clara Foods secured a US$8 million venture loan in January this year, which the startup said will be used to build out its animal-free sustainable protein platform. Aside from bio-identical pepsin, the startup is also developing real eggs without chickens, a product poised to disrupt one of the most widely available and affordable sources of protein globally.
Lead image courtesy of SDLeaders.